It’s been a long road for Dorian A Rock Musical. Following a gala performance at London’s Café Royal, it was due to open at The Other Palace back in March 2020, was twice postponed due to lockdown and finally cancelled altogether when the theatre was put on the market. Undeterred, however, Ruby in the Dust turned their attentions to producing a filmed version to be streamed online, which has allowed the show to finally reach audiences this weekend.
Taking Oscar Wilde’s classic story and giving it a modern twist, the production introduces us immediately to Dorian (Bart Lambert), a young man trying to shake off the scandalous circumstances of his birth and find love and acceptance in an unfamiliar world. Painter Basil Hallward (Lewis Rae), infatuated with the young man, offers to paint his portrait – a proposal that ultimately throws Dorian into the path of the dangerous, charismatic record producer Lord Henry (John Addison). Excited by the hedonistic world of rock stardom that Henry shows him, and troubled by the thought that the portrait’s beauty will mock him as he ages, Dorian offers his soul in exchange for eternal youth. As the years pass, the painting will reflect his true nature, while Dorian himself will remain young and beautiful forever – but the deal fails to bring him the fulfilment he so desperately craves.
Among a number of strong performances, Bart Lambert proves a great choice to play Dorian, capturing both the innocence and the ignorance of youth, and really taking us on a journey with the character. His cruel disdain for both Basil and Sybil Vane (Fia Houston-Hamilton) is painfully believable, but so too is his desperate cry following Sybil’s death that he wants to “be good”. John Addison, Lewis Rae and Fia Houston-Hamilton stand out as three very different representations of love in Dorian’s search for perfection, and there’s great work too from Johanna Stanton as the unhappy Lady Henry.
As a filmed production, the show works well enough, although I hope it does eventually make it to a live stage so that audiences can experience first hand the atmosphere that the team have evidently worked hard to create. Dorian was filmed as an immersive production, and as an audience member it’s hard to immerse yourself fully when there’s a screen in the way. That said, there are moments that capture us even at a distance – the opening number, in which Dorian mourns for his long-lost mother, is a good example – and reveal the show’s potential should a live performance be possible one day. The themes and language of the source material are well incorporated in Joe Evans’ music, and Linnie Reedman’s script makes Wilde’s story accessible to a 21st century audience without over-simplifying it – there are certainly a number of unanswered questions as the final credits roll, though whether this is deliberate or not is unclear.
On the whole, Dorian is a creative take on a well-known story, and while this format doesn’t entirely do it justice, given everything that’s happened up to this point, just getting it to audiences at all is an achievement that’s worthy of recognition. With strong input on all sides from cast and creatives, hopefully this isn’t the end of the road for this promising production.
Dorian A Rock Musical is available to watch online at Stream.Theatre until 12th August.